One of my favorite patriotic songs is “America the Beautiful.” I often find my voice catching a little as I sing it. Being a city guy, however, I never fully appreciated the power of those words until I visited Arches National Park in Utah. Staring over the vast desert dotted with some of the most unique geological formations on earth, my spirit soared like it never had before. I started softly singing, “O beautiful for spacious skies . . .”
The words of Psalm 66 soar as well. The song reminds the faithful of God’s mighty deeds and amazing grace. Though they have experienced defeat, trials, and setbacks, God has been faithful to them through it all. Now God has led them to a “spacious place,” where they remember that the future is in God’s hands and is wide open.
“Spacious places” are often hard to come by; that surely held true for the exiled Israelites. Yet they were led to that space not by viewing breathtaking vistas but through their worship of God. They sang songs like Psalm 66 that reminded them of all that God had done for them. It’s not hard to imagine them dancing and singing as they remembered God’s dramatic rescues in the past. Those joyful noises restored their hope for the future.
Worship should be healing. It is a time to remember the moments when despite what was happening around us, we knew we would survive. It involves memories of beloved people, words of promise, and joyful singing and praise. Over the years, we have argued so much about form in worship that we have often forgotten its function: joyful praise of a faithful and loving God, thanksgiving to God for healing both past and present struggles, and hearing God’s promise of hope for the future through Jesus Christ. Whatever form it takes, may worship lead all of us to “a spacious place” of God’s unlimited horizon.
Lord, help me to worship you in peaceful solitude as well as in joyful communion with my siblings in Christ. Amen.
Through Jeremiah, God sends a message to the people in exile: They are to seek good for the city of Babylon, their new home. God will bless the city and in doing so will bless God’s people. The psalmist encourages the people to praise God with songs recounting past challenges through which God’s powerful deeds have brought them. This can be encouragement for those currently experiencing difficulties. In Second Timothy, Paul encourages his protégé to endure suffering if necessary. In fact, Timothy should expect to experience resistance. Although the apostle Paul is in chains, the word of God is powerful and can never be chained. The story in Luke reminds us of a basic truth: We should remember to show gratitude to God for answered prayers.
Read Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7. When have you experienced physical or metaphorical exile? How has God helped you to thrive in your Babylon?
Read Psalm 66:1-12. Recall a time of division in your family or community of faith. How did God bring you individually and collectively to a spacious place?
Read 2 Timothy 2:8-15. How do you remember Christ in your actions toward others?
Read Luke 17:11-19. What boundaries keep you from full wellness that can be found in Jesus Christ?
Respond by posting a prayer.